For the past seven years, black Labrador Retriever mix Debbie was a loyal companion for the students at Benavides Heights Elementary School in Eagle Pass, Texas. Every day, loyal Debbie would walk children to and from school, visiting with her young friends every chance she got.
Debbie may have been a stray, living on the streets of Eagle Pass, but she was never really alone. Benavides students and parents alike quickly fell in love with Debbie, and she became a fixture in the community. While school workers initially tried to chase Debbie off, they quickly realized she wasn’t a threat to the students’ safety. Staff even put food out for Debbie and made sure to keep her up-to-date on her vaccinations.
Benavides teacher and literary specialist Ronald Zawacki-Maldonado knows how special Debbie has become to his school.
“We’re talking about kids now who are already in junior high or high school and have known Debbie all of the years that have passed by,” Zawacki-Maldonado explains.
“She marched around with the kids,” he tells MySanAntonio.com.
Zawacki Maldonado was driving up to Benavides one January morning when he says he saw a terrible scene.
“And I was coming in to work. I was driving up, and I saw a bit of commotion,” he tells FOX San Antonio. “And I saw something black laying on the side of the curb with some people standing around and bending over.”
That “something black” was poor Debbie, severely injured after being hit by a car. The impact of the vehicle was so catastrophic that it dislocated her spine, tore the skin from her right front leg, and completely ripped off one of her toes.
Debbie was rushed to an emergency veterinary hospital in Uvalde, Texas, 60 miles away from Eagle Pass. Her condition was so dire she was then transported to the South Texas Veterinary Specialists in San Antonio, where she was treated by veterinarian Dr. Sarah Israel.
“When she first came to us she couldn’t walk at all,” Dr. Israel tells KENS 5 News of Debbie. “When she was hit she had a broken back [and] she couldn’t move her back legs.”
Staff at the veterinary hospital was taken with Debbie right from the start. Though she had to endure hours of physical therapy and sometimes-painful medical treatment, Debbie was always in high spirits, offering her tummy to the staff for belly rubs.
“She’s been quite a trouper considering the injuries she’s had,” Dr. Israel says.
Every day Debbie was in the hospital, Benavides students kept Debbie in their thoughts. They crafted care packages for Debbie, letting Debbie know how much they missed her.
“She also got lots of Valentines cards from the students, most just reiterating their love for her and hope for her to get well,” Dr. Israel remembers.
Zawacki-Maldonado made sure to keep the students informed when it came to Debbie’s progress.
“They are all asking, ‘Can she come back?’ Some cry. They want to see her and hope she’s okay,” he says, “[they ask] if she’s gonna live.”
Finally, last Thursday, Debbie’s medical team decided she was well enough to return to Eagle Pass for good. But she wouldn’t go back to life as a stray — this time, Debbie would have her very own home. Zawacki-Maldonado not only offered to cover Debbie’s vet bill, but decided to adopt Debbie, too.
Though she will still have physical therapy treatments ahead of her before she’s back in tip-top shape, Debbie is expected to make a full recovery.